Field biologists and environmental educators Roger Smith and Margaret Creel established Teton Raptor Center (formerly known as The Raptor Fund) in 1997 as a 501(c)(3) organization, securing both U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and State of Wyoming raptor rehabilitation and education permits. Roger and Margaret began their commitment to rehabilitating birds of prey in 1991 with limited facilities in their home and eventually acquired expanded space at 3 Creek Ranch’s Nature Center. At that time, Roger was working as a research biologist in Grand Teton National Park. He and Margaret recognized that raptors are an integral part of the Teton environment. Eagles, owls, hawks, falcons, and Osprey each have an important role in the balance of our environment and are each, to varying degrees, threatened by human encroachment. With rare dedication and resolve the couple began assisting injured raptors. Over the years they have saved dozens of birds and provided hundreds of educational programs, reaching thousands of students of all ages.
In response to increasing patient numbers and requests for educational programs with live birds, Roger began searching for an appropriate space to locate and grow a community-based raptor education and conservation program in Jackson.
Also recognizing the need for a larger and more effective organization, The Raptor Fund expanded to include five board members and changed its name to Teton Raptor Center in February 2008. It was then that TRC was able to negotiate a long-term lease with the Jackson Hole Land Trust, and work began to establish our Center at the Hardeman Barns, a Jackson Hole Land Trust protected property, in Wilson, Wyoming. The Teton County Commissioners subsequently granted TRC a conditional use permit to operate a rehabilitation and educational center on the historic property. Construction of the Raptor Barn began October 1, 2008 and was completed in December 2009. Board Member Porgy McClelland spearheaded the project, assisted by a crew of dedicated volunteers. Originally built by Gerrit Hardeman as a calving shed, the open face post and beam structure of the barn was replicated by the former Snake River Institute in 1990 when they were tenants of the property. TRC went to work transforming the three-sided pole barn into a fully functional raptor rehabilitation center. Insulated walls and ceiling were installed, a polished concrete floor poured and mews erected to house the resident and injured raptors. The 1,437 square-foot structure houses ten individual birds chambers connected by a hallway to a 500-square-foot clinical space. This section of the barn houses freezers, a medical examination space and intensive care unit. In 2014, Teton Raptor Center staff and volunteers built another barn to house the increasing number of raptor patients we treat from Wyoming and Idaho. In April 2017, Teton Raptor Center purchased the Hardeman Barns as a permanent home for raptor conservation.
In the early 1940s, Major Moseley built what are now called the Hardeman Barns. For over seventy years, the gracefully arching structure of the wind-proof gothic North Barn has been the visual hub of Wilson, Wyoming. When Gerrit Hardeman bought Moseley’s ranch in 1956 and moved his herd of prizewinning Herefords from Kelly, the property flourished under his hardworking stewardship. During the late 1980s, when property values went out-of-sight, the pastoral 137-acre property south of Hwy 22 was threatened by development. The price of beef could not keep pace with the value of real estate, and by 1989 the land along with the iconic buildings were slated for subdivision. The cultural value of this property to the local community became apparent as a young Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) harnessed the enormous support of people wishing to preserve the barns and surrounding acreage. A bold offer and down payment allowed the Land Trust to turn this passion for preservation into real dollars. Through the contributions of many, most notably Gil and Marge Ordway, the Hardeman family soon had a viable alternative to development.
While not always feasible within a conservation easement, the JHLT has always believed in the value of creating public use and access to protected properties. The tenants during the last twenty years included the 4-H and the Snake River Institute. Both welcomed the community interaction fostered by the Land Trust. It was fortunate that when Roger Smith was looking to create Teton Raptor Center and utilize space other than his own house for the care of injured birds of prey, the Hardeman Barns were without a tenant. It did not take long for the parties to formalize a lease in 2008, cementing what has been termed a natural fit. On April 14, 2017, ownnership of the Hardeman Barns property was transferred to Teton Raptor Center.
Teton Raptor Center is excited by the synergies that exist between the Jackson Hole Land Trust and our work. Our mission dovetails with the conservation of open spaces, and new opportunities exist for the public to interact with birds of prey, to deepen their understanding of the natural world, and to get a glimpse of our ranching heritage. In the hands of Teton Raptor Center, Hardeman Barns will remain a community asset and will continue to be stewarded by the Jackson Hole Land Trust to ensure that all provisions of the conservation easement are being upheld. We are proud to be the main character in the next chapter of the Hardeman Barns and to be national-level leaders and innovators of raptor conservation from our home on this treasured property in Wilson, Wyoming.
Learn more about the history of this special place by viewing this 2014 film by JenTen Productions, A Treasure Hidden in Plain Sight: The Moseley/Hardeman Barn.